Seeping from the decay of the Westminster establishment and the political parties which are at present acting as its watchdogs is a continual dripping of putrid sludge; a whimper decrying the threat of Scottish Nationalism. Everyone from David Cameron to Ed Miliband, from Ruth Davidson to Jim Murphy, from the Scotsman to the Daily Record, from Eddie Izzard to Jo Rowling, from the grinning Farage to the dog on the street, feels threatened by the tsunami of Nationalism racing through Scotland. They feel under threat not because it poses any real danger to them or their well-being, but because it is tearing at the very foundations of what is most sacred to them – their own psychologically ingrained sense of British Nationalism. What we are witnessing on this island is not the birth of a new and powerful fascist ideology bent on domination, as its opponents would have us believe, but the clash of two already existing Nationalisms; one undergoing a renaissance, and the other tottering on the decrepit legs of guilt and self-doubt.
Pandora’s Box was opened on this clash of Nationalisms when New Labour came to government in 1997, when the creation of national assemblies in both Scotland and Wales sparked a fundamental crisis of identity at the heart of the Conservative English imagination. Looking out England could see that the Welsh and the Scots celebrated a profound understanding of their national identities and were beginning to live this politically and culturally, but looking inward England and the English were confused. For the first time in almost 290 years England with its parliament at Westminster had to content itself with ruling only itself.
As a master of the nations on this island England ruled the seas, it sold whole African nations into slavery, it brutalised and colonised the globe, and it enriched itself from an imperial project that did nothing but thieve from every corner of the earth. This England profited nothing by gaining the whole world, but the loss of its own soul. After 1999, following the opening of the National Assembly of Wales and the Scottish Parliament, the people of England had to reconsider who they were, and this consideration sparked the real crisis that has brought us to the present.
Firstly this has been an English crisis of conscience. Unresolved questions of historical shame and guilt meant that England had to rethink its proud and deeply racist Nationalist and Imperialist self-conception as the shining light of white Anglo-Saxon power, and at each step of this national re-evaluation there was popular reaction – leading ultimately to the ideas and values of groups like UKIP and the EDL becoming socially and politically mainstream. Like it or not, this is Nationalism, but it is not the healthy Nationalism of a nation’s self-becoming – it is a Nationalism that is rooted in bitterness and denial. This is precisely what distinguishes the Nationalism of Wales and Scotland from the neo-Nationalism of England. Scotland’s Nationalism, like that in Wales, is a Nationalism springing from the joy of being set free. The Nationalism taking hold in Westminster and all over England is the Nationalism that grows from the resentment of having to let go.
.@MarkoOhNo As I said, I agree with Orwell who believed that patriotism is fundamentally defensive, nationalism fundamentally aggressive.—
J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) May 06, 2015
Oh no! This cannot possibly be true, says cultural stars the likes of Jo Rowling, England’s “patriotism is fundamentally defensive,” whereas Scotland’s “nationalism [is] fundamentally aggressive.” On what evidence is she basing this statement? To begin with she is forging out of a misreading of Orwell an insidious false distinction. Rowling is perfectly right in tweeting that there is a profound difference between patriotism and nationalism, but she completely fails to appreciate that there is an equally profound difference between patriotism and patriotism, and between nationalism and nationalism. Patriotism she says is a “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world.” She is correct. This is a definition of patriotism, but it has rarely – if ever – been the patriotism of England, which has, since the Crusades, desired the building of Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land; devotion to which makes undaunted the final sacrifice of gallant soldier’s lives. This is quite another definition of patriotism – one of war and violence.
What then is happening in this fashionable anti-Scottish Nationalism rhetoric is another scapegoating mechanism designed to distract attention from the real crisis of identity and Nationalism that is being avoided in England. All of their worse demons can be exorcised in their assault of the affirmation of a Scots identity that has burst into life as a result of being set free from this toxic environment of British denial and doubt.
Jason Michael, Ayrshire